Steve Perez saw his bid to secure victory on the opening round of the 2009 Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship come to an early end when he was forced out of the season opening Rallye Sunseeker.
At the wheel of his newly acquired ex-Marcus Gronholm Ford Focus WRC07, Perez was holding second place behind defending champion Marcus Dodd when he ran into problems in the long Ringwood stage.
Having run wide at a hairpin, Perez tried to use a nearby earth bank to help get back on track but the wheels of his car dropped into a ditch and with no help around, he was left stranded and forced to retire.
"I'm obviously disappointed as I have a good record on Rallye Sunseeker and I really felt I could challenge for victory this year having never won the event,” he said. “It was so innocuous but these things happen and I can only take consolation in the fact that my other two title rivals, Paul Bird and Marcus Dodd, also retired.
“I think it may be a fairly quiet night in Bournemouth tonight!"
Perez will now head to the Lake District to take part in next weekend's Malcolm Wilson Rally.